No. 10 Wrestling Plays Host to No. 5 Iowa Saturday

Nov. 22, 2005

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TEMPE, Ariz. - Following a tough road loss to No. 8 Lehigh last week, the No. 10 Arizona State University wrestling team opens the home portion of its schedule as the Sun Devils are set for another Top 10 showdown when the No. 5 Hawkeyes of Iowa invade Wells Fargo Arena for a 6 p.m. dual Saturday night. The Sun Devils enter the dual 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-10 Conference while the Hawkeyes will be competing in their first dual of the season.

Last Saturday, several Sun Devils competed in a pair of tournaments with three wrestlers advancing to the finals of their respective weight classes. At the East Stroudsburg Open, Cain Velasquez reached the finals and won the heavyweight title while Patrick Pitsch (165) finished second after injury defaulting. On the other side of the nation, C.B. Dollaway, who competed unattached from Arizona State, finished second at the Fullerton Open.

A pair of Sun Devils have opened the season with undefeated records while another is near perfect in 2005-06 following the East Stroudsburg Open. Cain Velasquez (285) stands 9-0 on the season while Jeremy Mendoza (125) holds a 6-0 mark against collegiate-eligible competition. Patrick Pitsch (165) is 8-1 with his lone loss coming in the Lehigh dual.

Senior heavyweight Cain Velasquez has proved why he is a threat to win the NCAA title this season as he has opened his final collegiate campaign with a dominating 9-0 record. In those nine bouts, he has won five major decisions, one technical fall, two pin falls and one injury default. In his last two years, Velasquez has posted a combined record of 45-5 and has won 16 major decisions, five technical falls and five pin falls. All told, he has earned bonus points for the team 26-of-45 bouts over the last two seasons (57.7% of his bouts).

For the second dual in a row, the Sun Devils will step on to the mat with a Top 10 nationally ranked foe, this time taking on perennial power and fifth-ranked Iowa this Saturday. So far this season, the Sun Devils have faced one Top 10 team, No. 8 Lehigh, losing that dual, 29-7. Later this season, several other Top 25 teams will appear on the schedule, including No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Iowa State and No. 21 Cal Poly. Also, the Sun Devils have a chance to face other top ranked teams while competing in the NWCA National Duals.

Of the 30 bouts contested at the Portland State Duals, 17 victories recorded by ASU wrestlers earned bonus points in the team race. Combined, the Sun Devils won five bouts by fall (six points), three by technical fall (five points), seven by major decision (four points) and two by injury default or forfeit (six points). Conversely, only two bouts were won in a dual with No. 8 Lehigh with one victory ending in a major decision for Cain Velasquez.

Last year, Patrick Pitsch went 24-15 in his first season of action for the Sun Devils. In those 39 bouts, Pitsch did not pin an opponent. In his first match of the 2005-06 season, Pitsch collected his first pin as he defeated Marshall Cook with the fall at 5:42. His pin was one of five recorded by ASU wrestlers at the Portland State Duals the first weekend of the season.

The Hawkeyes, one of the nation's longest running traditions in the sport, enters Tempe for their first dual of the season after competing in the Spartan Classic (Dubuque, Iowa) and the Kaufman-Brand Open (Omaha, Neb.) where they secured seven and two individual champions, respectively. Six Hawkeyes are ranked in the national Top 20 polls, including No. 1 Joe Johnston (9-1) at 157, No. 2 Paul Bradley (4-0) at 184, No. 3 Mark Perry (0-0) at 174, No. 4 Ty Eustice (5-0) at 149, No. 7 Matt Fields (5-1) at heavyweight and No. 14 Alex Tsirtsis (4-1) at 141. Head Coach Jim Zalesky is in his ninth season at the helm of the program and is 116-27 overall in dual competitions. His Hawkeyes are 4-0 against ASU.

The Hawkeyes have dominated in the series and hold a 20-1-1 all-time record over the Sun Devils, including victories in the last 14 meetings in a row. The last time ASU defeated Iowa was the opening dual of the 1988 season when the Sun Devils scored a 22-18 victory in Tempe. That season, ASU went on to win the NCAA Championships.

The last two times the Sun Devils and Hawkeyes met was during last season when the host No. 9 Hawkeyes scored a 29-10 victory over the visiting No. 22 Sun Devils. Two ASU wrestlers were victorious on the night as No. 4 Ryan Bader pinned Dane Pape at 2:23 in the 197 bout before Jeremy Mendoza (125) recorded a 14-0 major decision over Lucas Magnani. That victory gave ASU a 10-9 lead with four bouts to go, but the Sun Devils could not hold on as the Hawkeyes picked up on fall and two major decisions to close out the dual.

- #9 Jeremy Mendoza (6-0) vs. Trent Goodale (5-2) -or- Lucas Magnani (4-2)
133 - Adam Hickey (4-4) vs. Daniel Dennis (8-2) -or- Gabe Ruhkala (3-3)
141 - Jason Robbins (3-1) vs. #14 Alex Tsirtsis (4-1)
149 - Pat Payne (4-3) vs. #4 Ty Eustice (5-0)
157 - #6 Brian Stith (0-0) -or- Kevin Gaughan (4-3) vs. #1 Joe Johnston (9-1)
165 - #11 Patrick Pitsch (8-1) vs. Eric Luedke (8-2)
174 - Alex Pavlenko (2-4)/Jamie Robbins (2-2) vs. #3 Mark Perry (0-0)/Ben Stedman (3-3)
184 - Jason Trulson (4-2) vs. #2 Paul Bradley (4-0)
194 - #10 Ryan Bader (4-1) vs. Adam Fellers (0-2)
285 - #4 Cain Velasquez (9-0) vs. #7 Matt Fields (5-1) -or- Ryan Fuller (4-3)

According to the list of probable starters for this dual, the Sun Devils and Hawkeyes could have three rematches of bouts from last year's dual, including two ASU losses. Jeremy Mendoza and Lucas Magnani could meet at 125 (Trent Goodale is also listed for Iowa) in a bout that saw Mendoza record a 14-0 major decision. The possible rematch at 157 could be No. 6 Brian Stith (ASU also has Kevin Gaughan listed) and No. 1 Joe Johnston. Last year, No. 11 Johnston defeated No. 16 Stith, 8-5. The final rematch could see No. 4 Cain Velasquez meet No. 7 Matt Fields (Iowa also has Ryan Fuller listed) at heavyweight. Last year, Fields earned a 4-3 decision to hand Velasquez one of his five losses in 2004-05.

Several wrestling publications recently released their preseason rankings with the Sun Devils earning placement in the Top 20 as both a team and individually. In the team rankings, Arizona State will open the season as the No. 10 team in the nation according to the NWCA and USA Today. In their individual rankings, six Sun Devils have earned rankings with Cain Velasquez (285) leading the way at No. 4. Also receiving rankings were No. 6 Brian Stith (157), No. 9 Jeremy Mendoza (125), No. 10 C.B. Dollaway (184), No. 10 Ryan Bader (197) and No. 11 Patrick Pitsch (165).

Arizona State won the 2005 Pac-10 Wrestling Championships to not only capture its second crown in three years, but also the 15th in the history of the program. Brian Stith (157) upset Matt Gentry of Stanford, the defending Pac-10 and NCAA champion, to win his weight class and earn Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships. Cain Velasquez (heavyweight) also secured a title, the first of his career, before being named as the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year. C.B. Dollaway (184) and Ryan Bader (197) each advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes before placing second.

At the conference level, seven Sun Devils are ranked in the Top 5 according to the preseason poll released by Stanford, the host of the 2006 event. Jeremy Mendoza (125), Stith, Bader and Velasquez are each ranked No. 1 while Patrick Pitsch (165) and Dollaway are both No. 2. John Espinoza (133) also is ranked, coming in at No. 4.

Arizona State has three All-Americans returning to its lineup this season, including a pair of first-time honorees from a year ago. Last year, Brian Stith earned his first national accolade by placing sixth at 157 pounds while Cain Velasquez took fifth in the heavyweight division to earn his first honor. Ryan Bader is the Sun Devils' third All-American returning after earning the acclaim in his sophomore campaign of 2003-04.

Three members of the Sun Devils earned post-season awards from the Pac-10 last year, including two wrestlers and one coach. At the conference tournament, Brian Stith was voted by the league coaches as the Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships following his title at 157 pounds. After the completion of the NCAA Championships, another vote was taken by the conference coaches with Cain Velasquez (285) receiving Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year while Head Coach Thom Ortiz was chosen as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year for the second time in his four years at the helm of the ASU program.

Thom Ortiz returns for his fifth season as the head coach of the Sun Devils and has compiled a 46-27-1 overall record at Arizona State and stands 26-2-0 in Pac-10 duals. The 2003 and 2005 Pac-10 Coach of the Year will be assisted by Aaron Simpson and Eric Larkin. Simpson is starting his eighth season while Larkin is set to begin his second. All three members of the staff also wrestled for the Sun Devils at one time with Ortiz competing on the 1988 NCAA Championship team and Larkin winning the 2003 NCAA 149 championship. Combined, the trio won nine All-America honors and nine Pac-10 individual crowns.

Wells Fargo Arena, which opened in 1974, is a 14,198-seat facility that plays host to Sun Devil wrestling and other ASU varsity teams, including men's and women's basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. In the time the wrestling program has called WFA home, the team has captured one national title, two runner-up finishes and 16 conference crowns, including 15 as members of the Pac-10. Individually, five Sun Devils earned national titles while 55 different athletes captured 103 conference crowns and 66 individuals combined to secure 94 All-America honors.

Arizona State faced its toughest test of the young season as the No. 10 Sun Devils traveled to No. 8 Lehigh on Thursday, Nov. 17, and dropped a 29-7 decision to the Mountain Hawks. The Sun Devils opened the dual with Jeremy Mendoza winning a 2-0 decision at 125 for the early 3-0 lead. But the hosts would win the next eight bouts in a row to build a 29-3 lead heading into the final bout of the night. In the heavyweight contest, Cain Velasquez scored a 14-4 major decision to give the Sun Devils four more points for the final of 29-7.

Also in the Keystone State, the Sun Devils competed in the East Stroudsburg Open with a pair of wrestlers placing in the Top 8. Velasquez won the heavyweight division while Patrick Pitsch finished second at 165 pounds after injury defaulting in the finals. In other tournament action, several Sun Devil wrestlers competed unattached to the team while placing at the Fullerton Open. C.B. Dollaway advanced to the finals at 197 pounds before falling to Cal Poly's Matt Monteiro while John Espinoza finished third at 133 pounds.

It is back to tournament action for the Sun Devils next weekend as they are set to compete in the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational on Dec. 2-3.

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